Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Murky Situation: Blackwater's Actions in Iraq

One of the most controversial aspects of the war in Iraq has been the involvement of private American contractors, beginning with Haliburton and now focusing on the private security agency Blackwater. The State Department has awarded Blackwater more than half a billion dollars in contracts since the start of the Iraq war. Their task is to protect diplomatic convoys travelling throughout the country, a job usually reserved for the U.S. military or government. Blackwater employees are to fire only in defensive situations which pose a clear and imminent danger.

Despite these orders, there have been 16 Iraqi civilian deaths at the hands of Blackwater employees, including the death of the Iraqi Vice President's body guard. In a report published by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Blackwater employees are said to have participated in 195 "escalation of force" incidents, initiating fire in over 84%. The full report can be read here: http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20071001121609.pdf

There are two other private security agencies operating in Iraq who have much better track records. Why is this? The article attached to this blog suggests that Blackwater employees lack training before deployment and have virtually no access to mental health services once they are in Iraq. Could these be contributing factors to the incidents? If so, who is really to blame, individual employees or the Blackwater corporation? Are the actions of Blackwater embedded in the situation? Should we be asking private contractors to perform what many feel is the duty of the government? Is it even ethical for our government to ask a private company to represent our interests overseas when the corporation has no accountability to the American people?

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